Action from Principle

In a class, we considered a scene from Remember the Titans.  Coach Yoast is white.  Coach Boone is black.  Local white leaders have fixed a football game so the team would lose and Coach Boone would be fired, allowing Coach Yoast to regain his position as head coach.  At the start of the game, Coach Yoast, who is a candidate for the high school hall of fame, calls time, walks on to the field and tells the referee that if they continue to make bad calls, he would go to the papers and he would not rest until they were all in jail.  At the end of the game, the furious white leaders tell him he just lost his chance for the hall of fame.

I put up the following quote from Thoreau: “Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything that was.  It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; aye, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine” (Civil Disobedience).

We explored why the coach had the courage to do the right thing.  We discussed how his doing the right thing destroyed his existing network of relationships.  We discussed how his act was revolutionary and created the unfolding of a new future.  Finally we discussed what it did to him.  When a person makes a courageous decision to be internally directed, they personally transform.  The diabolical-self decays and the divine-self expands.  The person begins to more fully love self.  When we have authentic love for ourselves, we see, feel, think and behave differently, and the world changes.  I am grateful for Thoreau’s profound observation.



  • What is action from principle?
  • Why does it change things?
  • When have you seen it operate?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

Leave a Reply